Logistics and Trasport: strategic elements for relaunching the Sicilian agri-food supply chain

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1 Logistics and Trasport: strategic elements for relaunching the Sicilian agri-food supply chain Abstract Maurizio Lanfranchi Carlo Giannetto The agri-food sector has been characterised in recent years by profound changes linked to the process of globalisation and changes in demand for food, and is now strongly influenced by mass retailers, more and more intent on satisfying consumers whims, which change according to their habits and lifestyle. These changes have also radically altered the logistics of the agri-food supply chain, with the need for greater efficiency in the transport system. In this context, farmers are, in most cases, unable to perform the important economic function of transferring products in time and space, a function that is easily detected in other sectors of production. This is due to the high degree of perishability of agricultural produce, which often prevents them from being stored for long periods or from being transported for long distances. In Sicily, this difficulty of conserving or transporting fresh agricultural produce is even greater, since Sicilian farmers, in particular, are faced with very long distances in order to reach procurement markets, necessary for purchasing the factors of production needed to start up the production cycle, and also in order to get their agricultural produce to the markets where it is sold. Thus, in order to improve the working of the agri-food supply chain, logistical services need to be reorganised rationally, with regard to product management and transportation. In Department SEFISAST Faculty of Economics University of Messina Department SEFISAST Faculty of Economics University of Messina - The paper is the result of a complete cooperation and it is, therefore, of responsability of all authors. The material drawing up of paraghraphs 1, 3 and Conclusions are attributable to Maurizio Lanfranchi; paragraphs 2 and 4 are attributable to Carlo Giannetto; the paragraph 5 to Maurizio Lanfranchi and Carlo Giannetto. 1

2 this scenario, the speed and efficiency of transport is a fundamental factor, along with efficient organisation of the logistical phase and an overall improvement of infrastructure in rural areas. Improvement of logistics within the agri-food supply chain consists of excellent management of the flow of products. This management system requires, above all, the sorting and reorganisation of loads arriving from places of production, often of a mono-product nature, towards wholesale and retail distribution points, which are of a multiproduct nature, as well as widespread delivery in order to satisfy demand for these products. The aim of this paper is that of analyzing how much transport accounts for in production costs for farms, in order to show how this creates a disadvantage for businesses operating in Sicily, because of their excessive distance from markets, but also because of a policy enacted by mass retailers which often means products travel a long distance, only to end up being consumed back near the area in which they were produced. This situation, while being optimal from the viewpoint of mass retailers distribution logic, on the other hand impacts the transport costs incurred by small and medium-sized enterprises, with the consequent narrowing of profit margins, and is thus one of the main obstacles to revitalizing the Sicilian agri-food economy, hence the need for intervention. 1. The need to adapt logistical services to changes in the agrifood system Today agriculture is strongly influenced by profound changes linked to higher levels of competition mostly affecting businesses downstream from the farm, such as primary and secondary processing industries, wholesale and retail distribution. This new dynamic scenario has emerged following developments in consumer behaviour, as consumers have become more and more demanding and expect greater quality and safety in food products, the progressive growth of market internationalisation and the predominant role of mass retailers. The 21 st century food model requires products with the presence of a larger immaterial component, linked to consumer expectations. 2

3 Consequently, those operating in the supply chain have had to adapt to changes in taste and eating habits, providing frequent deliveries and bar codes for product traceability. In this scenario, rational management of the whole food supply chain is of strategic importance for the agricultural supply chain. Thus, logistics, understood as the process that oversees the management of flows of materials and information needed for the production, transformation and distribution of goods, must have the primary objective of getting products to where they are required, at the right time and at a reasonable cost. Particular attention is paid to transport because the agri-food system is characterised by a high level of perishability of goods and is particularly sensitive to the distance between place of production and place of consumption. However, overcoming the distance from markets is not only a physical problem, it is above all an organisational one. In the light of this, it is indispensable to intervene in order to reduce logistical costs for the agri-food supply chain, also by creating logistical platforms in Sicily dedicated to the agri-food business and a more specialised and straightforward road transport structure for getting agri-food goods to markets faster and more cheaply. Interventions for the rationalisation of logistics require a study to map the businesses scattered around the territory belonging to the various agri-food supply chains. 2. Transport of agri-food products in Sicily The transportation of goods along the agri-food supply chain in Sicily is of three kinds: by sea, by road and by rail. National maritime routes directly connect Sicily to the north of Italy across the Tyrrhenian Sea. The transportation of agri-food products within Sicily is carried out exclusively by road, as the rail system is not economically sustainable due to the short distances and its limited extension. The transportation of agri-food products in Sicily takes place by road, even though in recent years a large proportion of transport activities are carried out using the intermodal system, which combines road and sea transport, thanks to the considerable growth of so-called sea motorways connecting Sicily with the markets of 3

4 northern and central Italy. Indeed, as Sicily is an island, it obviously uses this form of intermodal transport more than other parts of the country. The agri-food logistical chain can be considered transport intensive both because the process of delocalisation undertaken by agri-food processing businesses has increased distances between place of production and place of consumption, and also because the process of deverticalisation has brought about a progressive increase in the number of transport operations. Alongside these changes that have happened in the international agribusiness panorama, we must also consider the policy of stock reduction, which aims to reduce storage costs and which has brought about a considerable increase in the frequency of deliveries. In other words, the reduction in unitary costs for transport services is offset by a corresponding overall increase of total transport costs for businesses. 3. Criticalities in the Sicilian infrastructure system The reduction in the level of stocks in warehouses to a bare minimum has caused a pulverization of deliveries and has drastically reduced development of rail transport in Italy. The lack of an adequate culture of modern logistics is an element of weakness in the Italian entrepreneurial fabric, resulting in the widespread use of road transport for distribution, rather than a greater use of rail cargo. Thus, the development of local logistical potential depends largely on the level of infrastructure and the capacity to adequately exploit infrastructures by offering services of a high quality. In southern Italy, and particularly in Sicily, there are still numerous elements of criticality blocking development of the logistical sector, despite the investments made over recent decades. Congestion of the motorway network limits the potential of road transport in terms of efficiency in territorial accessibility with a resulting increase in travelling times and the incidence of transport costs. Another priority for intervention is that of improving logistical efficiency in areas around production districts. The lack of efficient interrelation between agri-food production districts and the 4

5 motorway system is particularly apparent in southern Italy, and in Sicily in particular. Criticalities can also be found in the maritime transport system, with structural and technological deficiencies to be found in the main Sicilian ports. These include a lack of wharfs and spaces suitable for the needs of a modern distribution system and inadequate infrastructural connections to the land transport system. 4. Elements characterising agri-food logistics Logistical distribution is a fundamental element in any industrial activity, but this factor is even more important for agribusiness, thus, both for the agro-industrial and agri-food sectors. This element is the only one capable of transferring the finished product from the producer to the consumer; in this sense, transfer includes all operations in time and space that make a finished product available to the consumer. Logistical distribution in the agri-food sector consists of transport, packaging, delivery, procurement, storage and marketing. Any product placed on the market needs to create a good logistical network because, even if the product has a good reputation or is of high quality, its sale could be slowed down or even suspended without well organised distribution. The development and creation of new transport techniques can only improve distribution, especially in the agri-food sector, which is certainly the sector of production most closely tied to the time-space relationship, because of the nature of the goods involved. Undoubtedly, for these particular reasons, transport costs for an agri-food supply chain are higher than for more traditional industrial supply chains, as times must be faster and techniques need to be more identifying (we refer, for example, to the concept of cold chain, to particular methods of storage, forwarding and delivery). Total transport costs are affected, directly or indirectly, by movement services, insurance, storage in warehouses, transhipments, handling, etc. Efficient transport certainly allows the producer to gain a series of advantages, both from an economic point of view and with direct regard to product quality. Indeed, the product life cycle is extended, consumer needs are immediately satisfied (also with as regards unpredictable 5

6 requirements). For this reason the Italian agri-food system has to equip itself with a logistical network capable of rationalising flows, at all levels of the chain of production, trading and distribution. This is possible through changes is competition conditions, which have brought about rapid development of logistical and transport structures and functions in the past. Today, the continuous development of physical and information flows has turned logistics into a tool for competitive advantage. A high degree of coordination among operators in managing the supply chain is the necessary condition for improving logistics results. Particular attention must be given to the logistical system in the agri-food supply chain because it is one of the most sensitive sectors. Indeed, consumption is a salient element of relationships between production, marketing and distribution. Moreover, the agri-food sector is characterised by certain factors that are unknown in other sectors, such as the rigidity of biological cycles, the perishability of the products marketed, poor contracting power of actors and the low level of attention paid by operators towards market requirements. For this reason, the particular attention given to transport and logistics is due to the complexity of exchanges and, as previously mentioned, the fact that the products are often perishable and thus highly sensitive to the distance between area of production and of consumption. 5. Incidence of logistics costs in an agro-industrial or agri-food supply chain The Italian agri-food market is characterised by a significant difference between the producer price and consumer price. This difference is often caused by the excessive length of the supply chain and by the numerous actors operating along it. There are actors who participate directly in the agricultural context, along with those belong to the food industry, wholesalers, distributors, traditional retailers and caterers. In addition to these, there are a whole series of actors from outside the supply chain who provide services such as transport, packaging, energy, etc. It is particularly this high number of external actors that brings about a significant increase in the consumer price; these are operators that perform functions regarding 6

7 the supply of technical resources for agriculture (additives and fertilisers), preparations for the food industry, of essential services (such as electricity, water and gas etc.), but there are also operators dealing with transport and logistics services and other services relating to communication, promotion, consultancy etc. Certainly, the high market price of agricultural produce could be reduced with a shorter and more efficient agri-food supply chain, which would surely bring down costs relating to factors of production. Costs would also come down if there were an improved infrastructural system, with regard, for example, to transport and energy networks. Unfortunately, because of an inadequate infrastructure network, Italy is lagging behind almost all its main European competitors. The following graph shows how much logistics costs impact the total turnover of an agri-food supply chain. The data was obtained from research carried out by Ismea in Graph n. 1 South and Islands Average costs as percentage of turnover - Ismea 2007 Within an agri-food supply chain, the highest costs are those for transport (11.6% of turnover), followed by storage costs and those related to moving goods. This data becomes very interesting if we compare the logistics costs of an agri-food supply chain in the three main geographical areas of Italy. Indeed, table 1 shows that there is a significant cost difference in the same supply chain between industrial sectors situated in the North, South and Islands and the Centre. 7

8 Tab. n. 1 Italy Average costs as percentage of turnover Costi 2007, valori medi in % del fatturato North Regioni Centre South and Islands Transport costs 9,3 9,7 11,6 Transport outsourcing costs 2,1 1,7 2,3 Warehousing costs 3,2 3,6 4,5 Warehouse outsourcing costs 0,2 0,7 0,3 Movement costs 2,1 2,2 3,0 Movement outsourcing costs 0,2 0,8 0,1 Picking costs 2,3 1,7 2,7 Picking outsourcing costs 0,1 0,5 0,2 Other cost 5,2 4,0 5,6 Other outsourcing costs 0,4 0,5 0,3 Totale 25,1 25,4 30,6 Source: Ismea 2007 Table n. 1 shows that the highest logistics costs are incurred in the South and Islands, while these costs are lower for businesses in the Centre. This data is fairly predictable, given the difference in distances and, as previously mentioned, the inadequacy of the Italian infrastructure network. Surprisingly, however, table n. 2 shows that the percentage variation of logistics costs between 2000 and 2006 increased in the South and Islands. Tab. n. 2 Percentage variations in logistic costs in the South and Islands Year Var. % Transport costs 7,4 11,6 4,2 Costi di trasporto in outsorcing 0,9 2,3 1,4 Transport outsourcing costs 3,1 4,5 1,4 Costi di magazzinaggio in outsorcing 0,1 0,3 0,2 Costi di moviment. 2,9 3,0 0,1 Costi di moviment. in outsorcing 0,1 0,1 0 Costi di picking 1,7 2,7 1 Costi di picking in outsourcing 0,1 0,2 0,1 Other costs 5,0 5,6 0,6 Other outsourcing costs 0,1 0,3 0,2 Total costs 21,5 30,6 9,2 Source: Ismea

9 This increase was particularly significant for transport costs, while there was little variation in costs for warehousing, movement outsourcing and picking. Table n.3 highlights, on the other hand, logistics costs relating to the fruit and vegetable sector. Tab. n. 3 Italy Average costs in percentage of turnover Fruit and vegetable supply chain Region North Centre South and Islands Transport costs 5,7 5,9 15,3 Transport outsourcing costs 2,6 4,0 7,6 Warehousing costs 3,9 11,0 8,6 Warehouse outsourcing costs 0,0 0,3 0,3 Movement costs 2,5 6,8 4,3 Movement outsourcing costs 0,1 0,2 0,3 Picking costs 0,6 7,8 3,7 Picking outsourcing costs 0,0 0,3 0,1 Other costs 9,5 5,2 8,7 Other outsourcing costs 3,1 0,4 0,6 Source: Ismea 2007 If this data is compared to that in table n. 1, it is clear that transport costs in the fruit and vegetable supply chain are higher than those in the agri-food chain for businesses in the South. This shows how transport is a highly negative element for all businesses operating in the primary sector. The following table shows costs and profits for every per 100 for each individual sector of a typical agrifood supply chain. It should be underlined that the supply chain is long, as is usual in the agri-food sector, and takes into account various actors ranging from simple procurement, to wholesalers, services, retailers, and caterers. Tab. n. 4 Supply chain costs and profits per 100 of food in Italy Internal costs and profits agriculture 16 Internal costs and profits food industry 12 Internal costs and profits wholesale trade 6 Internal costs and profits supermarkets/hypermarkets 5 Internal costs and profits traditional retail trade 3 Internal costs and profits catering 17 External supply chain costs 27 Net import 4 Indirect taxes 10 Total 100 Nomisma - Roma LA FILIERA AGROALIMENTARE tra successi, aspettative e nuove mitologie 9

10 The survey conducted by Nomisma in 2009, entitled La filiera agroalimentare tra successi, aspettative e nuove mitologie (The agrifood supply chain: successes, expectations and new mythologies) shows that for every 100 of products sold, the revenue is three Euros, the rest being accounted for by costs incurred in the external supply chain, net import, direct and indirect taxes, capital and labour costs and financing costs. Graph n. 2 Sales revenue per 100 of food in Italy - Nomisma - Roma LA FILIERA AGROALIMENTARE tra successi, aspettative e nuove mitologie The external supply chain costs, amounting to 27 (out of a hundred Euros), fall into the following categories (graph n.3): 10

11 Graph n. 3 External supply chain costs - Nomisma - Roma LA FILIERA AGROALIMENTARE tra successi, aspettative e nuove mitologie Transport and logistics costs are about 5,70 out of 100 Euros, undoubtedly an alarming figure given the considerable dependence of the supply chain on infrastructure services that are often inadequate and deficient. As regards profits for each individual actor (graph n.4), these can be divided into the following micro-categories. Graph n. 4 Supply chain profits - Nomisma - Roma LA FILIERA AGROALIMENTARE tra successi, aspettative e nuove mitologie 11

12 The three Euros of revenue (out of a hundred Euros) are mainly absorbed by the food industry (1,10 ), agriculture (0,70 ) and wholesale trade (0,40 ), figures that are certainly not competitive and inefficient for individual actors in the production process. As we mentioned above, a large part of the costs incurred by businesses operating in the agri-food supply chain relate to transport of goods and products, which is due to an inadequate infrastructure system, especially compared to the rest of Europe. This deficiency undoubtedly causes an increase in costs for the businesses in the supply chain, and consequently a lower revenue for each individual product sold. Road transport is the most widely used in Italy both for movement of goods and of people. According to the survey carried out by Nomisma in 2009, it turns out that the cost per kilometre incurred by Italian firms is much higher than the European average and the average of all the most important European nations. Tab. n. 5 Cost per kilometre for road transport Country Cost Italy 1,54 France 1,46 Germany 1,44 Spain 1,18 Source: Nomisma - January 2008 In Italy each kilometre of road transport costs about 1,54, mostly due to the cost of fuel, personnel and tolls. As regards motorways, Spain has a more extensive network in relation to GDP. Spain is followed by France and Germany; Italy s motorway network in relation to GDP is better only than that of the United Kingdom. 12

13 Graph n. 5 Indices of motorway infrastructure in relation to GDP - Nomisma - Roma LA FILIERA AGROALIMENTARE tra successi, aspettative e nuove mitologie As regards railway infrastructure in relation to GDP, the leading country in Europe is France, followed by Germany and Spain. Italy and the United Kingdom lag behind again, demonstrating that both these countries have a strong infrastructure deficit in both their road and rail transport systems. Graph n. 6 Indices of railway infrastructure in relation to GDP Nomisma - Roma LA FILIERA AGROALIMENTARE tra successi, aspettative e nuove mitologie 13

14 In order to improve this situation, transport should be rationalised by encouraging intermodality through incentives to businesses; but there should also be a strengthening of logistical platforms for the picking, processing, packaging and storage of agri-food products, for example, through promotion of investments for management of the cold chain, or through interventions aimed specifically at the storage, processing and transport of goods. Agri-food logistical hubs could also be identified (that is to say, areas characterised by a concentration of supply and redistribution, as well as production); there should be improvement in innovative forms of storage, transport and intermodality management, aimed at the rationalisation of the agri-food supply chain, with greater attention to perishable goods. There should also be incentives for production or product innovation in order to cope with changes in the various aspects of consumption. Conclusions Improvement of the transport network in the Sicilian agri-food sector is a winning strategy for definitive development of quality agriculture, which requires transportation that respects certain hygiene, environmental and time standards. We need, therefore, to continue analyzing cost structures in order to identify the operational inefficiencies linked to logistical services. We also need to start studying the supply chain in Sicily, paying attention to customer demand, in order to build a transport model adapted to the modern distribution process. This requires excellent planning of transfers of agri-food products between hubs in order to cut transport costs. Thus, the solution is to optimise transport by minimising total distance covered and time taken by each vehicle, reducing the number of vehicles in circulation and maximising the load of each vehicle. Moreover, we need to enhance Italy s, and particularly Sicily s, position in the Mediterranean, contemplating the creation of an agrifood logistical platform which, thanks to its strategic position, could constitute a foothold for the EU in the countries on the southern shores of the Mediterranean. 14

15 Bibliography ANDRIZZI C., Le nuove frontiere di frutta e verdura, Nuova Distribuzione, ANTONELLI G. (a cura di), Marketing agroalimentare, Franco Angeli, BACARELLA A., Orientarsi al marketing aiuta l ortofrutticoltura siciliana, supplemento a L informatore Agrario, 27/2006. BACCARANI C. (a cura di), Imprese commerciali e sistema distributivo. Una visione economica-manageriale, III edizione, Giappichelli, Torino, BERTAZZOLI A., GIACOMINI C., PETRICCIONE G., Il sistema ortofrutticolo italiano di fronte ai nuovi scenari competitivi, INEA, Edizioni Scientifiche Italiane, CAIATI G., Nuove funzioni e strumenti di marketing nella moderna distribuzione alimentare, Agribusiness Paesaggio&Ambiente-2 ( ), n CASATI D., Il ruolo della specificità per la valorizzazione dei prodotti agroalimentari, in Economia agro-alimentare, n.1, CESARETTI G.P., GREEN R. (a cura di), L organizzazione della filiera ortofrutticola, esperienze internazionali a confronto, Franco Angeli, CORERAS, La filiera ortofrutticola in Sicilia, Rapporto Oseaas-Coreras, FERROZZI C., SHAPIRO R., Dalla logistica al supply chain management Teorie ed esperienze, ISEDI, Torino, GREGORI G.L., CARDINALI. S., Aziende agricole e relazioni commerciali: aspetti cognitivi e competenze richieste, Agriregionieuropa, n. 6, anno II, settembre GREGORI M., GARLATI S., (a cura di) Il marketing collettivo dei prodotti agroalimentari, Università degli Studi di Udine, INEA, Annuario dell agricoltura italiana, annate varie. ISMEA, Gli acquisti alimentari in Italia: tendenze recenti e nuovi profili di consumo, ottobre ISMEA, L industria agroalimentare in Italia, Rapporto annuale, 2004 ISMEA, La logistica come leva competitiva per l agroalimentare italiano, Indagine Politiche strutturali, ISTAT, I consumi delle famiglie, annate varie. LANFRANCHI M., (a cura di) Agroalimentare e turismo: fattori aggreganti dell identità rurale, Edas, 2008 LANFRANCHI M.,,Corso di Economia dell azienda agraria, Edas, 2008 RUSSO, Scenari di riferimento per i porti container italiani nel sistema euromediterraneo. Applicazioni di modelli e metodi per la previsione della domanda e per la valutazione dell'offerta, FrancoAngeli, RUSSO. QUATTRONE, ITS Sistemi di trasporto intelligenti. Elementi di base e applicazioni operative per il trasporto privato, per il trasporto pubblico, per il trasporto merci e la logistica, FrancoAngeli,

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